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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ray Davies’ classics go classical - and still rocks!

A great afternoon in the out-doors was spent in the company of Ray Davies, opening act Katie Melua and a symphony orchestra with a choir. Yours truly was there, bringing his trusted cameras and keen eye for details. Review, photos and music from the show to be found below.
Last Saturday and Sunday, the legendary Ray Davies was doing a couple of spectacular concerts here in Denmark. I was lucky to attend the show Saturday, as the experience was much bigger than at the Sunday’s show for more than one reason.
IMG_9228-1The setting is Ledreborg Castle in the Danish countryside. A beautiful huge mansion, with an amazing park in the “back yard”. This is where the Danish National Radio Orchestra, DRs radiounderholdningsorkester, has their concerts each summer. They always have a special guest to front this, someone you mostly would not connect with classical music, though they are a philharmonic orchestra – but they are also so much more.
This year’s big event was the collaboration between the orchestra, their choir and none other than Mr.. Ray Davies, the “dad” of Metallica and “the founder” of Bruce Springsteen’s work place (as the thrashers and the Boss have referred to him). And of course the man famous for being the lead singer and founder of the rock and roll pioneers The Kinks.
I have to admit this… I am not a big fan. He is a living legend in my eyes, but I own no albums from neither him or the Kinks. “You really Got Me” was to – growing up in the 70’s and 80’s - a Van Halen song. I really only know the VERY big hits such as “Lazy Sunday Afternoon”, “Lola” and a few others. So please forgive me for not going into the minute details of each moment of the show. I simply would not know where to begin.
The bigger fan is my wife, who has his recent material and loves it. She is especially fond of the album “Other People’s Lives”, from which he, to some disappointment, played no songs. However, so much more happened that fully compensated for this, and turned an event I attended mainly for my wife into something I thoroughly enjoyed. This was indeed a good show.
The setting for the concerts at Ledreborg is a little different from what we normally see. People are encouIMG_2909raged to bring lawn chairs, tables and picnic baskets – though they did ask that you do not bring your own fence! - and spend the day in the beautiful park and in the company of friends, family and good music. This was a nice change of pace for me. We ourselves brought sandwiches and fold-out chairs and got comfortable on a little hill to the side of the stage. Very nice and cozy.
I myself have never been to a concert like this before. Normally my preferred venues smell like beer and has AC/DC blaring on the PA before the show. Very different from this.
IMG_9183-1 I was very leery about the opening act. A tiny little girl called Katie Melua, famous for soft-spoken pop music and all-together completely not my choice of music. When we bought tickets for this concert, it was with Ray Davies in mind, not at all paying attention to the opening act, as I had never heard of her. My neighbor, who was going with us to the show, lent me a CD he had borrowed from the library. To me, she sounded like an even more boring version of Norah Jones. Yawn fest. Much too introverted and not something I could at all imagine wanting to be seeing live.
IMG_9192-1 I have been told several times that Katie Melua is actually a pretty big name in today’s pop music, having several hits on the radio and so on. However, Danish radio in general is not at all compatible with my musical taste, and I do not waste my time on it. There is not one decent rock channel, so I have long ago come to terms with listening to internet radio for my musical entertainment. I highly recommend 181.FM by the way.
Much surprisingly, Melua was introduces as the best-selling artist of the 2000’s. Really? I vaguely remember seeing something with her by pure chance on TV, but that is just about all.
I have to admit, I was put a little to shame for being too unwelcoming of her..
On stage she has more presence that I would have imagined and her little pop songs, at least the ones with a little back beat, actually worked well. The incorporation of the philharmonic orchestra suited the music well, and made it a happy little experience before the real show. Her voice is crystal clear and a real treat to listen to live. I have to say I enjoyed it. I even realized that I recognized a song or two. The opener, “9 billion bicycles” and the closer “The Closest Thing To Crazy”, which is featured below. I guess I have heard them on the radio somewhere out there.
VIDEO: Katie Melua – The Closest Thing To Crazy
(Now, I apologize for the dull video of these recordings. They were taken with my photo camera, so I had no way of really doing any details and only digital zoom, which makes the picture look horrible, was available. So I chose to just shoot the stage and leave it at that. What I hoped to capture was the music, and I think it accomplished that better than expected.)
After a short break, the main event was about to take place. Mr, Ray Davies entered the stage with the orchestra and choir. This was a really cool experience. The show opened with the orchestra doing a little Kinks medley, very neatly arranged. Check it out below.
VIDEO: Symphony intro to Ray Davies. A very cool little medley.
Ray Davies is no stranger to other genres than rock music. Danish National Radio (DR) – who set up this concert – aired a lengthy interview with Ray Davies, where he talks about his musical upbringing, the death of his sister and many other interesting stories from his life. Check it out here (go to the page, then click the link on the right side that says “Hear the entire interview with Ray Davies). I have sent the webpage, which is originally in Danish, through Google Translate for your convenience.
It was really cool to hear Ray Davies. He is a great story teller, and gave us neat little introductions and anecdotes before playing most of the songs. He was in a great mood and had quite a few little jokes that brought a smile to everyone's faces. This was indeed a happy afternoon.
VIDEO: Ray Davies – You Really Got Me
Ray Davies and the many musicians really managed to get this whole project to lift off ground. They had spent two days in rehearsal to get all the details down, and I have to say I was – and still am – amazed as to how well this worked out.
Davis has an interesting way of singing. Technically, I gotta say he is not very good. He often sings out of key, he has trouble reaching the high notes and overall he can sound fairly sloppy. However, he does it with a lot of soul, and it really brings out the story telling element in his songs. At first, I felt that it took away from the experience, but after a little getting used to it, it was no big deal. I assume he has sung like this his whole career.
IMG_9236-1 Of course I know the classics from him, he is one of those musicians that is liked even by the people who have no idea who he is. He has the songs from our past and plays them with sincerity and passion still. – and dressing the songs up in classical music just made it even more interesting. I did not fully realize how many songs I knew from him until this concert. By far the majority of his songs were classics, and he was not afraid to use them. The new songs were interesting, and showed us that he is still a great story teller and that he still has the ability to write great songs. Great credits must also be given to the orchestra, the conductor and who ever wrote the symphony arrangements. I really enjoyed that they fitted the music well, and we not imposing on the songs, or in any ways taking the focus away from the original music. Classical music and rock’n’roll were strolling along hand-in-hand very nicely. My experience from various CDs are very varied. There are good examples, such as Deep Purples ventures, or Scorpions’ “Moment of Glory” albums, and there are horrible examples, where they fight to be the loudest, such as Metallica’s “S&M” or Kiss Alive IV. This was naturally not the same giant scale, but it worked out great.
VIDEO: Ray Davies – All Day And All Of The Night
We also got some lesser know songs from his back catalogue. These, he referred to as songs that had been forgotten or never were a success, but were still very popular in certain circles (i.e. the band). These I think were mostly pulled out of the bag because they would be interesting for them to arrange with the orchestra. I  - not really knowing his catalogue anyways – thought they worked out great, however quite a few people did start to pack up their stuff and getting ready to walk out. This was with maybe 20-25 minutes left of the show. They sure missed a LOT when the “dull moment” was over and they came back full force. Shame on them. By the time Davies and the orchestra got to the end of the show, everyone had gotten out of their lawn chairs and were cheering and singing along to Days and Lola.
A magical afternoon indeed.
Ray Davies really got his audience on his side Saturday afternoon, and it would turn out to be a much better experience than the Sunday show. Sadly, Katie Melua had stomach problems and after several delays they decided to cancel her part of the show. So what was left was only the Ray Davies part, which was performed in pouring rain.
The whole concert experience was filmed for National Danish Television. I hope to be able to catch it one more time. A home made DVD as a memory of this afternoon would be really nice.
Of course, I can not end this posting without the probably most important song from Ray Davies. Here is a nice recording from earlier this year, at the Glastonbury Festival. Enjoy!
VIDEO: Ray Davies – Lola
…and the alternative, yet amazing, version:
VIDEO: “Weird Al” Yankovic - Yoda
(all photos copyright – contact me if you want to use them.)

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